TORONTO — IGTO Canada’s Consul for Tourism Ami Allon is saying farewell to the Canadian travel industry and for the time being his position is not being filled. IGTO Canada’s Jerry Adler and Ellen Melman will run the office for the near future until a new Consul of Tourism is appointed.
The news came yesterday at an IGTO breakfast event in Toronto for travel agents and local media.
Allon is returning to Israel with fond memories of his three years in Canada. Like Allon, any new director for Canada “needs to be diplomatic and needs to know the market,” said Uri Steinberg, Israel’s Tourism Commissioner for North America. “Hopefully we’ll achieve that in the months to come.”
Last year got off to a roaring start for Israel. The Canadian market in particular was producing great numbers. The first two months of 2014 were record-breakers out of Canada, with visits up 16%. “Until June 2014 we had our best year ever,” said Steinberg. Then simmering tensions erupted and tourism plummeted.
Year to date the visitor figures for 2015 are down 12% over last year, but up 2% over 2013. So far, then, 2015 is looking good. “We need to be optimistic about the future,” said Steinberg. This resilient country is more than capable of weathering a drop in visitation. It rebounds again and again.
As is often the case when tourism numbers fall, Israel has gone back to basics with a focus on its unique proposition. “We are the Holy Land”, says Steinberg. The evangelical Christian market is 75 million strong in North America, and growing, he adds. And only 3% have travelled to Israel. The IGTO will soon launch a new Christian campaign. “We need to get to as many audiences as we can but we also have to be targeted in our approach.”
Steinberg also wants to put together a campaign “to address the elephant in the room: safety. People are afraid. It’s time for us in an intelligent, creative way to talk about the safety issue.”
Travel agents often don’t know how to sell Israel, says Steinberg, something the destination is always looking to rectify with online training and the like. “Israel is one of those destinations where clients might need their hand held,” he adds. “We need to invest more in the retailer side, not the wholesaler side.”